What should Congress ask Facebook chief? Nothing

April 10, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before Congress this week, and prepared testimony has been released. The question now becomes, what should Congress ask him? “Nothing,” writes Zeynep Tufekci in The New York Times. “We already know most everything we need for legislators to pass laws that would protect us from what Facebook has unleashed.”

(See updates below.)

She acknowledges that the “…sight of lawmakers yelling at Mr. Zuckerberg might feel cathartic…” but would result in “earnest-sounding promises” and “superficial changes” that don’t address the underlying problems.

She offers four suggestions of what legislation could require:

  • Provide clear, concise opt-in mechanisms for personalized data collection.
  • Provide people with access to all the data a company has collected on them.
  • Limit the use of collected data for enumerated purposes and for a limited time.
  • Regulate the use of aggregated data.

“Right now, Silicon Valley is stuck in a (very profitable) rut,” she writes. “To force it to change would not only make us safer but also foster innovation.”

In contrast, Emily Stewart at Vox does have nine questions for Zuckerberg, including the following ones:

  • What malicious actors have user data?
  • Are you the right person to lead Facebook?
  • Who owns Facebook’s user data?
  • How are we supposed to trust that this time is different?

It’s that last one that seems to suggest to Tufekci that all the others are pointless.

Meanwhile, Facebook faces criticism from Europe as well as the U.S., with the German cable-operator association FRK calling for public broadcasters ARD and ZDF to withdraw from Facebook. “ARD and ZDF have been financing the expansion of their reach on Facebook through the public license fee for years,” said FRK chairman Heinz-Peter Labonte, as quoted at Broadband TV News. He added that viewers should not have to co-finance the misuse of their own data.

Update, April 11: Jörn Krieger at Broadband TV News reports that ARD and ZDF are defending their Facebook presence, seeing it as an important information and communication platform while rejecting the demand of FRK to leave the network.

And not unexpectedly, lawmakers did not follow Tufekci’s advice on questioning Zuckerberg. “The 33-year-old tech titan faced an onslaught of 44 senators from the chamber’s Judiciary and Commerce committees—all eager to maximize their allotted five minutes for grilling the witness,” reports Politico, which offers a summary of the testimony.

Observes Dana Milbank at The Washington Post, “Senators seemed as if they were less interested in regulating [Zuckerberg] than in gawking at him.” He notes that Sam Ervin’s Watergate committee and the committee probing the sinking of the Titanic each had seven members, while the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack had 10 members. He adds, “Total number of senators on the panel to question Zuckerberg on Tuesday afternoon: 44.”

Sponsored Recommendations

TTI Transportation Resource Center

April 8, 2024
From sensors to vehicle electrification, from design to production, on-board and off-board a TTI Transportation Specialist will help you keep moving into the future. TTI has been...

Cornell Dubilier: Push EV Charging to Higher Productivity and Lower Recharge Times

April 8, 2024
Optimized for high efficiency power inverter/converter level 3 EV charging systems, CDE capacitors offer high capacitance values, low inductance (< 5 nH), high ripple current ...

TTI Hybrid & Electric Vehicles Line Card

April 8, 2024
Components for Infrastructure, Connectivity and On-board Systems TTI stocks the premier electrical components that hybrid and electric vehicle manufacturers and suppliers need...

Bourns: Automotive-Grade Components for the Rough Road Ahead

April 8, 2024
The electronics needed for transportation today is getting increasingly more demanding and sophisticated, requiring not only high quality components but those that interface well...


To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Electronic Design, create an account today!